10/30/2015 4:28PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf: Hit It a Bomb explodes late to win

Nikki Sherman
Hit It a Bomb steams up the outside under Ryan Moore to outfinish Airoforce, who is in between horses, and Birchwood in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday at Keeneland.

The $920,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Friday at Keeneland had a full field of 14 horses, with that bulky field a daunting prospect for inexperienced runners. But it was nothing new for European invader Hit It a Bomb, who faced 22 in his debut at the Curragh in Ireland just over a month ago.

Last midway down the backstretch of the one-mile Juvenile Turf, Hit It a Bomb rallied to win by a neck over Kentucky-based Airoforce. 

Ryan Moore, who was aboard the colt in his career debut and on Friday, said of Hit It a Bomb's experience with large fields, "Sure, it helped him."

"But," Moore added, "this was a very different experience for him."

Moore said that Hit It a Bomb ($16.40) "didn't get away very well" after being distracted by the American style of handling in the starting gate. That issue was compounded by the fact he was drawn outside in post 14 and was the final horse into the stalls, without much chance to settle. Moore allowed the colt to relax and find a rhythm on a course rated yielding after heavy rain earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, Manhattan Dan bounced away from the gate to establish a clear early lead, with Dressed in Hermes tracking him in second. Manhattan Dan took the field through an honest first quarter of 23.12, but slowed it down to 48.22 for the half. With that bit of help, the leaders separated themselves around the turn, and Manhattan Dan took a three-length lead into the lane.

But the class closers came rolling as the field straightened away. Birchwood, most recently Group 1-placed behind Europe’s top juvenile Air Force Blue, was the first to pounce. But Airoforce, winner of Keeneland’s local prep in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes last out, forged his way through between horses. In a wild scramble for the line, Hit It a Bomb, steered to a clear path by Moore, came rolling widest of all to hit the wire a neck ahead of Airoforce, who was another neck ahead of Birchwood. It was 2 1/4 lengths back to Conquest Daddyo, who rallied for fourth after having just one horse, Hit It a Bomb, beaten on the backstretch.

The final time for the mile was 1:38.86.

Completing the order of finish were Dressed in Hermes, Highland Sky, Manhattan Dan, Cymric, Hollywood Don, Shogun, Ray's the Bar, Camelot Kitten, Azar - who was in tight quarters in the lane - and Sky Marshal.

The victory was the third in the Juvenile turf for trainer Aidan O'Brien, and second in concert with Moore.

“We were worried about the ground – he’s really a firm-ground horse," O'Brien said. "Ryan gave him a marvelous ride. He said he was going to leave him relaxed the first part of the race and work it out from there.”

Hit It a Bomb, a son of Claiborne Farm stallion War Front, was foaled in Kentucky and is bred and owned by Evelyn Stockwell, the 92-year-old mother of Coolmore’s John Magnier. The colt has now won all three of his starts, having followed his maiden victory on turf at the Curragh with a 4 1/2-length romp in a minor stakes on synthetic at Dundalk.

"I can't tell you how delighted we are for [Stockwell]," said O'Brien, who trains for Coolmore at Ballydoyle. "She always loved him."